Tuesday, 19 January 2021
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Living with Cancer

Zeenat Patel-Kaskar

Article by Zeenat Patel-Kaskar

Goodwood resident

Online writer and editor for

e-magazine Crescent Connect


" So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?" Surah Ar-Rahman 55:13 


I am driving home on an ordinary weekday. Thoughts of supper are unfolding in my head as I contemplate the quickest way to prepare our supper that evening. Biding the time in traffic I hope that the homework supervision won’t be much.


Moments later I am dissuaded from duty and instead I sit in the car on a forced “errand” to be away from home so that our conversation is private, and undisturbed. I am staring ahead and instantly aware that my tongue and pallet seemed to fuse as the insides of my mouth has dried out. “Stage two,” I repeat, staring ahead not wanting to display any sign of worry. I must be the strong one as my role now defines me to be nothing less than assuring and optimistic.


My world as I know it seems unfamiliar. I am acquainted with medical terms that had never entered my level of understanding, or vocabulary a mere few hours earlier. There is a litany of information to process and noting dates are like mathematical equations that I fail to comprehend. There are hospital dates, events surgery, treatment, managing reactions to treatment and pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. School runs, extra murals, parent-teacher meetings, work demands, pressure, balance, juggle.


I am sitting on my prayer mat and something falls straight from my face in front of me. They are tears but I am not crying. Not a shudder not a snigger, just empty tears that drop straight from my eyes to the space in front of me.


Maybe my prayers have been answered I wonder. In moments of desperation I have appealed to the Almighty to ease the pain, the wounds and bring upon healing. In my contorted relationship with the Almighty I have cried out to take away whatever reward is “due” to me – and give it to my husband as I was deeply affected by the pain he bore. Maybe it was that prayer that makes me devoid of emotion – and has replaced me with this robotic persona that occasionally spits anger.


I wonder why Allah has left me. I can’t seem to find Him in my salaah – everything is repetitive and empty. Someone said to me to “Demand from Allah” relief, and strength. I cannot demand that I thought; it’s not my right. Allah listens to the sick so therefore the demands are more effective when they come from the sick, right? And besides, it’s their duas that need more answering not mine.


I am awakened by shock at a note from the teacher, both complimenting my preschooler’s display of medical vocabulary and commiserating on my husband’s illness. I realized that I was not seeing things through the eyes of my children and the effect of this … absenteeism was taking its toll.


Surrounded by love and support did no good either. I felt overwhelmed and the throes of people visiting constantly made me feel cloistered and suffocated. I would crave the solace of the house I only experienced after everyone had left and then prepared myself for the unease of the night and a tired morning before work. It was a routine that I had grown used to. Or groaned used to. Why was I so ungrateful? Would I prefer to sit in isolation without the throes of people visiting, offering food, support, love and most importantly duas?


But I could not “feel” it. In fact I could not feel anything. It was as if someone had wrung out my heart and replaced it with a withered rag. I seemed to wear a masked smile on my face all the time and accepted nods of disapproval from those who either thought I was in denial, or that I was devoid of understanding the gravity of the situation.



It wasn’t stage two. It was stage four. My life was in turmoil. But this was not about me - it was about him. His fight against the disease that taunted us and dangled death as its victory permeated our every obsession in defense of it. The treatment too challenged him, making him sick to the stomach and morphed my husband into a shape that was unfamiliar to all of us. It seemed to have conquered all of us. My sensitivities were increased unnecessarily and with that came high levels of irritation – conveyed where it was most undeserved.


Cancer does that. Most “serious” illnesses do that. It doesn’t matter what it is – it’s how you cope, and how people around you react that matters. I fought against Allah throughout all of this – somehow assuming responsibility for my husband’s illness and assuming that his illness was my punishment – because I deserved punishment. The belief that when an evil befalls us it is due to what our own hands have earned, firmly embedded in my conscience.

How! The arrogance of these thoughts appeared only later! Its not my fault, nor is it my doing! In fact this is not about ME! It’s about the sick – and my role is to support, learn and endure – NOT ransom! This is not – a punishment.


I realize that I had just had a real conversation with Allah. It seems that something lifted, guilt perhaps, or just a lot of fog. But on a crisp morning I found my husband asleep upright in a chair (his un-comfortableness rejected horizontal rest at this point) with the most peaceful look on his face. This startled me. Peace seemed to have transcended the lines of pain that became familiar and even replaced the pallor of his complexion. The look was a turning point. And I realized. This was not a punishment. It was merely a trial.


Punishments are what happen to people in return for their evil deeds. Trials are tests that are sent to try people and people are to be tested, through either good things or bad. Concerning punishments, Allah says: “Whatever of good reaches you, is from Allah, but whatever of evil befalls you, is from yourself…” [al-Nisa 4:79]


And then Allah OFFERS


Whatever befalls a Muslim of exhaustion, illness, worry, grief, nuisance or trouble, even though it may be no more than a prick of a thorn, earns him FORGIVENESS by Allah of some of his sins.” [narrated by Al Bukhari]


Finding the good in adversity is blinded by emotional reactions. Although natural, it is most important for spiritual survival to recognize the MERCY through these trials. Accept offerings of help from people, advice, duas and love are all forms of it – and they are gifts from the Almighty indeed. Not to mention helping the sick or assuring them that the mere endurance of their pain is a mercy from the Lord too.


Favours. And to receive favours, you must be favoured. By Allah. My biggest lesson amidst the fog of emotion is the realization of being favoured. Subhanallah. I remain undeserving of it but I accept it.


I offer gratitude to Allah.


All praise is due to Allah.

Most Merciful. Most gracious. Most beneficent.


May Allah grant shifa to those who are ill, grant them recovery and support to thos who are caring for them.